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Caltech and the War in Ukraine

March 06, 2022

To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics
Date: March 6, 2022

Powerlessness in the face of atrocity is as dispiriting a feeling as there is. We watch close up on video Ukrainians huddled in subway stations and fleeing to the west as bombs rain down and explosions raze cities. Our hearts go out to those whose lives are turned upside down by the death, the destruction, and the uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. 

As members of a close-knit academic community, we must first and foremost support those in our midst who are affected directly or whose families lie in harm's way. We must be careful to do this in a way that does not vilify other members of the community whose ethnic identity cannot speak to their convictions or family histories. We also must reassert our belief in the power of speaking the truth and shattering attempts to gloss over history and reality. It is a simple notion and one often without immediate discernible effect, but in the long term what gives universities their special power. As William Faulkner reminds us: "We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it."

The International Scholars Day event at noon on Monday, February 28, initiated opportunities for community members to express their thoughts about the unfolding situation in Ukraine. This Monday, March 7, we will gather as a community at an event sponsored by the Caltech Center for Inclusion and Diversity, Support Through Dialogue: Effects of War in Ukraine on the Caltech Community. As communicated through Ion Caltech and on the web, llana Smith, director of the International Offices, has been designated as the primary contact for members of the Caltech community who are affected by the war, and the various counseling services for students, postdocs, faculty, and staff are positioned to help. In addition, the Institute has committed to be part of a program to welcome dispossessed scholars from Ukraine to universities in the United States.

The path forward is likely to be difficult and painful. Together we can make the journey a more bearable one.